816 North

Liberty places first great American on envisioned walk

Liberty has taken the first big step toward a walking trail featuring life-size bronze statues of historic American figures, work that organizers hope will make the city a regional attraction and eventually a national destination.

The first in the series of life-size replicas features George Washington and was unveiled at a public ceremony on June 18 at the corner of Lightburne and Mill streets near historic downtown Liberty.

“We want to celebrate American exceptionalism in a culturally significant way,” said Greg Canuteson, a former Liberty mayor and a leader of the Great Americans Project. “We want to produce first-class pieces of art that young kids and young and old alike can enjoy.”

The project celebrates the legacies of the men and women who transformed the United States. Organizers want to add a statute to the collection each year for the next two decades. They will include statesmen, scientists, inventors, authors, poets and other inspirational figures.

Money for the statues is generated through private donations, said Canuteson.

The statue was created by the New York-based StudioEIS, which made life-size statues featured at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and of the signers of the U.S. Constitution for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

“We want this to be a regional or even national destination point,” Canuteson said. “That is why it is so important for us to have first-class pieces of art, because we want create a unique place in America.”

The selection of George Washington was a logical first choice, said Christian Sizemore, former president of William Jewell College.

“He had a vision for this country and he not only helped form that vision but he led the revolution that cause this country to come into existence,” Sizemore said. “Not only was he the first president but he also was the number one citizen in this country. He had a vision for a lot of things including agriculture and foreign affairs and so many things.”

Liberty was the starting point for the westward expansion in many ways before Kansas City, Independence and St. Joseph were established, said Sizemore.

“It also increased the influence of the United States in the world,” he said. “All of that can be showcased in Liberty, whose name sort of exemplifies the United States, anyway.”

The group wants to create a streetscape of life-size bronze sculptures that encompasses Liberty Junior High School, William Jewell College and the historic town square.

Canuteson said the city has a been a great partner in the project.

“The city took a vacant piece of property that was an eyesore and landscaped it,” he said. “The city did an excellent job in taking a barren piece of land that was an eyesore, taking it and turning it into a nice vast pocket park.”